The quality of a website’s internal and external links plays a major role in determining how a site is categorized and valued by search engine web crawlers.

Internal links

Internal links go from one page to another on the same website. They provide a logical roadmap for users to navigate site structure, and they help to establish the hierarchy of information on a site.

The ideal structure is simple, beginning with a home page, which links to secondary pages. The secondary pages, in turn, link to subpages. Think wide and flat rather than narrow and deep. For web crawlers to get the maximum benefit and understanding of your site, each page should link and share relevancy with the next.

Internal link structure

A well-executed internal link structure increases your opportunities to use keyword-rich anchor links. And using keyword-rich anchor text on pages that are visible to web crawlers is one of the most effective ways to ensure your site and its pages get properly indexed.

Some do’s and don’ts:

  • Stick with basic html for your site navigation and anchor text. It’s a common language that search engines to understand.
  • Use breadcrumb navigation with consistent keyword placement. Breadcrumbs increase a site’s usability and boost search engine optimization, especially if the main keywords of each page are used as anchor text to point to related pages.
  • Include a sitemap in your design that lists all of your website’s URLs. Sitemap files tell search engines what pages should be crawled and indexed.
  • Avoid using Javascript in your navigation. Search engines may not be able to crawl these links.
  • Don’t embed links inside Flash or other browser-based plug-ins. Web crawlers may not be able to index these links.
  • Don’t create pages with hundreds (or thousands!) of links. Search engines have a threshold, believed to be around 150 links per page, before they stop crawling a page and any subsequently linked pages.

Simply said, if you want to ensure high placement with the search engines, use an internal linking strategy that is simple to navigate, useful to the user, practical and adds value to the web.

Inbound links

Inbound links tell search engines that your website is important. Basically, the more inbound links you have the higher your website will rank with the major search engines.

Except it’s not always that basic. Search engine crawlers are pretty smart. They can tell the difference between a quality inbound link and a low-value link. So go carefully when creating your plan to build inbound links. Consider the following:

Submit to website directories: While it’s not the biggest step you can take to drive your site’s visibility, submitting your website to reputable website directories is a good way to jumpstart your link-building efforts.

Create your own content: Start a blog and write about your industry, niche or service. Content that’s timely and relevant will be shared, and shared links point back to your website.

Implement a social strategy: Search engines are increasingly using social cues to identify relevant websites and content. Use your business blog and website content to feed timely information to your preferred social channels. Consider using a social media dashboard tool such as HootSuite or Sprout Social to publish content socially.

Investigate your industry: Identify high-performing blogs and websites in your industry and start building relationships with those that could be mutually beneficial. Link back and forth to one another’s content. If appropriate, ask about anchoring reciprocating links on each other’s sites.

Create and distribute news releases: News releases have the potential to deliver great SEO benefits. With each release you push through a news release distribution service (some are paid, some are free) you stand to gain inbound links. Many distribution services have standing relationships with wire services and syndicated sites. Each site that picks up your news release is generating an inbound link. And when other niche websites pick up and cover your news, you get an even more valuable inbound link. PRWeband PRNewswire are just two examples of news release distribution services.

Become a guest blogger: When you’ve cultivated relationships within your industry or niche, consider asking owners of complementary blogs if you could occasionally post to their site. Being a guest blogger can put you in control of creating links back to your site, and that will drive traffic and elevate your search rankings.